The liver can be called as the second largest solid organ in one’s body. Yes, you have heard it right! Proper functioning of the liver is essential for your overall well-being. Your liver tends to carry out many vital functions, which may also involve manufacturing those essential proteins, along with the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Furthermore, it also helps flush out harmful biochemical waste products and may detoxify alcohol, certain drugs, and also environmental toxins. It also forms and secretes bile which contains bile acids to enhance your digestion and intestinal absorption of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins which are A, D, E, and K.
Today, a lot of people suffer from the
fatty liver which is becoming a growing matter of concern. According to a study
published in the Journal of Hepatology, approximately 2 million deaths per year
worldwide are caused due to liver disease. Not only this, as per the Centres
For Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million adults have been diagnosed with
liver disease. Globally, one in four adults suffers from fatty liver disease.
Whereas, as per the new data presented during the International Liver Congress
2019, 1 in 5 young adults show signs of fatty liver. Young adults in the age
group of 24 years showed a high prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver
disease, with progression increasing with age even in this small birth
cohort. Surely, these figures are harrowing! Here, we decide what is
fatty liver, why is it known as a ‘silent killer’ and how to deal with
Fatty liver, also known as hepatic
steatosis, can be described as the build-up of fat in one’s liver. You might be
aware of the fact that it is normal to have small amounts of fat in your liver,
but too much of fat deposition in your liver can be harmful to you. We
are not kidding! It can lead to serious health issues which can be
life-threatening. One may suffer from it owing to heavy drinking. Hence, as
time passes, too much alcohol consumption can cause a build-up of fat inside
your liver cells. This can give a tough time to your liver and it won’t be able
to function properly. But, did you know? You can get it even if you don’t opt
for alcohol. Fatty liver can be classified into two categories- Alcoholic Fatty
Liver Disease (It can be termed as the first stage of liver damage caused by
alcohol abuse) and Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (It can be described as
the build-up of extra fat in one’s liver cells which is not caused by alcohol.
It is normal for the liver to contain some fat. Moreover, if more than 5% – 10%
percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is known as a fatty liver
There are no symptoms typically tied to
it. But, according to various studies, about 20 per cent of people suffering
from fatty liver inflammation progress to worse conditions. On its occurrence,
one may feel fatigued or experience abdominal discomfort as well. Moreover,
your liver might appear slightly enlarged, and this can be detected by your
doctor. Hence, experts advise people to immediately seek medical
attention. Tons of research suggest that the excess amount of fat in the
liver, along with certain medical conditions, can lead to inflammation. Once
your liver becomes inflamed, you may exhibit symptoms like abdominal pain,
fatigue, weakness, confusion along with weight loss. Beware! If your fatty
liver progresses to cirrhosis and liver failure, then, you may also show
symptoms like an enlarging, fluid-filled abdomen, you may also get jaundice of
the skin and eyes and abnormal bleeding.
fatty liver is referred to a silent killer?
Fatty liver is also known as a ‘silent
killer,’ as there are only a few signs of it and cannot be diagnosed easily. It
can be termed as a silent killer because most of the patients may tend to
experience no symptoms, owing to which they will be unaware of their condition.
In such a situation, one may be only diagnosed by it when he/she visits the
doctor. Patients should also watch out if their liver becomes inflamed as they
may easily feel fatigued. Moreover, 10-20 per cent of people suffering from the
fatty liver may get hepatitis, which may further put them at the risk of
cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hence, it is the need of the hour for the patients
suffering from fatty liver to take charge of their health.
Speaking about the risk factors, people
having type 2 diabetes, consuming a lot of alcohol, having high cholesterol and
high blood pressure and taking too many medications may suffer from it. Not
only this, but a faulty lifestyle can also be the culprit here.
why early diagnosis the key?
If you are looking to tackle it then a
timely diagnosis would help you do so. People following hectic lifestyles,
opting for poor eating habits and those not taking enough amount of rest are subjected
to liver-related problems. Unfortunately, many of them fail to detect the issue
and deal with it at an early stage as mentioned earlier; there are usually no
obvious signs and symptoms of it. So, we urge people to go for regular
check-ups and follow-ups and see to it that they monitor the functions of their
body. Any irregularity spotted should be immediately discussed with the expert.
In some cases, your doctor may advise you to go for imaging tests, like those
that check for fat in one’s liver and the stiffness of it as well. Liver
stiffness can also mean fibrosis, which can be called as scarring of the liver.
Not only this, but some people may also have to undergo a liver biopsy to
confirm the diagnosis, and get to know about how badly is one’s liver
damaged. With the help of early diagnosis and follow-ups, one will be
able to avoid the permanent damage to the liver. This is so because the fatty
liver is a reversible condition which can only be tackled with the help of a
these lifestyle modifications
Opt for a well-balanced diet: One
should make sure that he/she includes fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet.
Cut down on the intake of carbohydrates, fats, and sugar. Alcohol, junk,
processed and spicy food are a strict no-no.
Along with this, one should also
kick-off his/her sedentary lifestyle and stay physically active. In case, you
are overweight, then cut down those excess kilos by exercising regularly. You
can opt for activities like walking, swimming, running, and aerobics. Also,
don’t forget to go for check-ups. Opting for a liver function test and check
for other factors will allow you to tackle fatty liver at the right time.
The take-home message: Avoid opting for over-the-counter (OTC) products. Also, don’t self-medicate. Doing so can be harmful to you.
By Dr Roy Patankar, leading Gastroenterologist & Director of Zen Hospital